Democracy Dispatch

Vermont Conservation Voters’ Political Outreach Director, Justin Marsh, hosts a weekly conversation with legislators, energy and climate leaders, and environmental champions.

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Monday Feb 19, 2024

Ashley Moore and Conor Kennedy are the chiefs of staff for Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden Central) and Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington), respectively. The two provide a peek behind the podiums, if you will, sharing details of their roles, what led them to this work, how they spend their rare free time, and their involvement in helping pass legislation.
Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden Southeast) shares details about a housing bill currently in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs.

Monday Feb 12, 2024

Marcie Gallagher, an environmental advocate with VPIRG, joins the podcast to discuss Vermont’s beverage container law known more commonly as the Bottle Bill. We unpack the history of the 50-year-old law, its importance, and the attempts and complexities surrounding modernizing it for today’s economy and consumer trends.
Representative Julia Andrews (D-Westford) talks about work in the Committee on Ways & Means and a bill that would raise revenue through the taxation of Vermonters with the highest incomes.

Monday Feb 05, 2024

Senator Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden SE) and Representative Esme Cole (D-Hartford) are two trailblazing legislators on opposing ends of the age spectrum. They bridge wisdom and progress sharing their perspectives, their path to politics, experiences with ageism and misogyny, and priorities for the rest of this session. 
I also welcome back Representative Dara Torre (D-Moretown) to the podcast to hear more about a bill in the House Committee on Environment and Energy that would reform the Renewable Energy Standard, accelerating the pace at which Vermont reaches an all-renewable energy grid. 

Monday Jan 29, 2024

On the this week’s episode of the Democracy Dispatch Podcast, I have a conversation with Senator Rebecca White (D-Windsor) and Representative Gabrielle Stebbins (D-Burlington), co-chairs of the Climate Solutions Caucus. They share their environmental priorities for the session, how their caucus operates and moves policies forward, their personal thoughts on the biennium structure of the Vermont legislature, and where to go from here now that the Senate failed to override Governor Scott’s veto of the modernized Bottle Bill. 
Also on the podcast, Lauren Hierl catches up with Representative Robin Chesnut-Tangerman (D-Middletown Springs) to hear more about a bill he is sponsoring that would ban the usage of neonicotinoid pesticides and why that is an important step in protecting pollinators and the environment.

Monday Jan 22, 2024

Dams exist in almost every Vermont community. Some of us may pass them on our daily commute, some of us may live near them, use the reservoirs created by them, receive our electricity from them, or even have them on our properties. It’s not clear exactly how many dams are in Vermont, but according to recent reporting from VT Digger, experts believe the number is over 1,000, with an average age of 80 years, and some still in existence since the 18th Century.
On this week’s Democracy Dispatch Podcast, I speak with Vermont Natural Resources Council’s restoration ecologist, Karina Dailey, all about dams - why they exist, the purposes they serve, and how removing derelict dams can unlock more resilience to weather events and increased biodiversity.  
Also on the podcast, Lauren Hierl catches up with Representative Amy Sheldon (D-Middlebury), Chair of the House Committee on Environment & Energy, to hear what her committee is prioritizing this year and has already been busy with.

Monday Jan 15, 2024

This week we unveiled the 2024 Environmental Common Agenda, coalescing the priorities of a record 19 environmental organizations into one publication. We held a press conference in the state house with fellow advocates along with support from House and Senate leadership to give an overview of our collective priorities. Later that evening at a reception in downtown Montpelier we awarded Senator Anne Watson (D/P-Washington) and Representative Mike Rice (D-Dorset) with VCV’s Rising Star Award. The VCV Rising Star Award is presented to two freshman legislators who have shown immense leadership and demonstrated thoughtful championing of our environmental priority policies. On this week’s episode of the Democracy Dispatch Podcast, I sit down with the winners to talk about their journey to serving, what they’ve accomplished in just their first year, and what they’re hoping to get across the finish line by the end of the biennium. 
Also in the episode, Lauren Hierl catches up with Senator Christopher Bray (D-Addison), chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, to hear what their committee is prioritizing this year.

Monday Jan 08, 2024

We last dropped a special episode in July in response to the catastrophic flooding that ripped through much of Vermont. Representative Dan Noyes (D-Wolcott) and I walked the streets of Johnson last summer to assess clean up efforts and talk strategies for the future, and he joins the podcast to give an update on progress and how his communities are recovering and responding to future flooding threats, like the ones we experienced just weeks ago. Joining our conversation is Representative Kelly Pajala (I-Londonderry) who represents four towns in the southern Green Mountains at the convening of Windham, Windsor, and Bennington counties. She was unable to join the conversation in July because she herself was impacted by the flooding, displaced from her home while also occupied with helping her fellow community members recover. The two discuss efforts in their communities, what’s on their mind as they rebuild, and what policies they are focused on getting across the finish line by the end of the session.

Monday Jul 31, 2023

As Vermonters begin week four of clean up from the devastating flooding that occurred the week of July 10th, we hear from four legislators from across Vermont as they share stories from their communities and efforts of recovery. I walked the streets of Johnson with Representative Dan Noyes, assessing firsthand the damages and work to rebuild. I spoke with Senator Alison Clarkson of Windsor County, who shared how her home district was impacted and also how resiliency efforts made following the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene likely helped areas in Bethel and Stockbridge that had been damaged in 2011 but were not as badly hit this time around. Representative Katherine Sims talked with me about the gaps in capacity for smaller towns, especially in the Northeast Kingdom, where she represents 4 towns hoping for FEMA relief designation. And lastly, Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who has stayed home with her newborn but took on a vital role of connecting supplies and volunteers, using her connections and relationships to provide aid to the affected communities.

Friday May 26, 2023

On the Season Finale of the Democracy Dispatch Podcast, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski discusses her role as Speaker, and House leadership’s priorities both currently and with an eye on the second and final year of the biennium. After passing the Affordable Heat Act this year, she lists the environmental policy priorities she hopes to see make it across the finish line by next year. Speaker Krowinski shares what led her to Vermont over two decades ago, what has kept her here and politically engaged, and what it means to be just the 4th female Speaker in Vermont history and one of only 6 in the country currently. Plus, hear how she spends the summer and fall during a non-election year. 
In an expanded edition of the Session Shakedown segment, Lauren Hierl and I give the full report of where our policies made it, using our 2023 Environmental Common Agenda as a guide. We see how far our policy priorities made it and what will be our focus in 2024.

Monday May 08, 2023

Wisconsin Conservation Voters’ Deputy Director, Seth Hoffmeister joins the podcast from the 2023 Conservation Voters Movement Conference in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. Seth shares about the incredible field organizing his organization led, resulting in successfully blocking a Republican supermajority in the Wisconsin House of Representatives. Despite being a majority democratic state, having elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers for a second term in 2022, the state is plagued with the worst gerrymandering in the country. He talks about the undemocratic district maps that strengthen Republican control and hopes for reversing that movement thanks to last month’s Supreme Court election, giving the court liberal control for the first time since 2008.
For our Deep Dive conversation, Lauren Hierl speaks with Representative Seth Bongartz (D-Manchester) about the progress of S.100, the housing equity bill, as we near the end of the 2023 session. Lauren and I recap the week in the State House and movement on environmental priority policies, including news of Gov. Phil Scott’s vetoing of S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, and its potential override vote this week. 


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